Confessions of a Regenerator

Hello, my name is Stef_W (well it’s not actually but anyway) and I’m addicted to Regeneration.

Regeneration is neither Optimus Prime’s secret gay transformer lover, the subtitle to a Terminator straight-to-DVD sequel nor the latest ‘legal high’. Despite having just completed an MSc in ‘Urban Regeneration’, I’m still not particularly sure what it is myself but I do have some thoughts…but I’ve haven’t really shared them with AC.

It’s the classic blog/career conundrum. To date I have mainly been employed by local government or more recently provided ‘consultancy services’ to mainly public organisations, both of whom are funded by the taxpayer. I have worked with passion and vigour for politicians of both the main parties in Local Government and have achieved greater career ‘success’ under the party that I do not vote for.

At work I provide advice without fear or favour. On Arbitrary Constant I don’t wish to be even. I wish to inform, arouse and repulse if necessary. In short, I like to have an opinion. Which is why to date I have followed the (twisted and poor) logic that if I hide behind the veneer of a pseudonym and steer clear from those areas on which I have some knowledge, strong opinions and (most importantly) a paycheck riding on, I’ll be safe as houses.

But quite frankly I can’t be arsed anymore. Whilst if I looked at my twitter feed or scan the archives of my AC blogs, I’m sure there would be some stuff I would wince at, probably quite a bit of stuff I would wince at, but I’d certainly stand up for it…And that’s me writing about stuff that I know close to zero-fucking-Kelvin about. I should be able to put up a decent defence of a subject and policy area I’m passionate about, have ‘qualifications’ in and have actually lived, a bit.

And that’s the crux, I actually care deeply about regeneration as I see it as a crucial tool for making places better . Growing up in a town of 250,000 people, the majority (including my Dad) dependent on one industry that disappeared as a result of the de-industrialisation of the 80’s, I know what its like for people to lose ambition, communities lost their strength and places just be shit to live in.

So back to the beginning. What’s this regeneration thing I am so addicted to?

Well it’s not the insertion of a spangly archiwank monuments to capitalism, in the hope that they would make people happier and more productive (New Labour called that Urban Renaissance); it’s not a morass of top-down, paternalistic and patronising programmes designed to ‘help the poor’ (New Labour called that Urban Regeneration); it’s not the alphabet soup of do-good-to local partnerships that scrabbled around for pots of money from government with cats-cradle-esque strings attached (New Labour called that Localism).

It’s merely the coordination of places, people and change to affect a better social, economic and environmental neighbourhood, town or city. It’s not a profession and it’s probably not even a proper job but is merely a prism for the coordination of town planners, architects, economists, local businesses, community groups, housing and office developers, transport planners, civil servants from departments across Whitehall…oh and loads of different politicians, national and local. And as it happens its probably the best prism to look through to do the ‘Big Society’, help us move away from a dependence of jobs in the financial services, bridge the North/South divide and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, amongst other things. However, whilst I don’t know much about quantum physics (the Hawking episode of the Simpsons and the bloke from D:Ream taught me all I know), it’s probably about as complicated as that.

As with any area of complexity, it becomes a policy area laden with pomposity and bullshit. From now on, interspersed between my usual rantings, I’ll try and simplify the complexity and if not clean up the bullshit, at least polish it so that it’s a bit clearer.